Friday, June 28, 2013

Hotline Miami Impressions

"Damnit......damnit......damnit!....Shit.....Guh!  This fuckin'......hurrgh...GODDAMN DOG!.....damnit.....yessss.....yesssss.  New stage time!"

The above is a basic approximation of my vocabulary whilst playing Hotline Miami, but with a lot fewer actual curse words (and a lot fewer words in general since a chapter here and there has had me stumped for a good half an hour or better already) while the game is doing its thing.  I put it this way because it's kind of hard to actually explain just how Hotline Miami works.  I can tell you how it plays, I can tell you what it makes you think, and I can compare it to this and that, but I'm having a hard time of putting on my finger on just what makes Hotline Miami [i]work[/i], because I assure you that it does.  I imagine that's one of the various things that ensures you come back to the game again and again, which ensures that you'll get your bang for your buck if you're worried about that.

I -want- to say the reason the game works is because of it's relative ease of use.  It implements an "easy to learn, difficult to master" approach to its gameplay, allowing you to get through a chapter with minimal effort (in a comparative sense) with a rating that reflects that.  It's the game's hope that you'll see that C- rating or whatever it is and tell yourself "I can do better than that", leading you to replay a level again and again, searching for that ever-elusive A+ rank.  Throwing this weapon at just the right moment to let you get two wall executions via forehead stomp, switching from a shotgun to an assault rifle to a pipe for a succession of foes, knowing when to burst into a room guns blazing are all practices that the game wills you to understand will help improve your rating and make it easier to do in the long-run.  Not to mention, when such tactics work correctly, it does instill a rather strange sort of satisfaction given the real, hard mortality that your character possesses in line with everyone you're shooting/stabbing/etc.

I also want to say the reason the game works is because of the unique blend of its bright, vivid retro graphics with a soundtrack that matches the era and mood the game attempts to create perfectly.  Though, perhaps retro itself isn't exactly the best word to use, but more of something like "Retro Progressive" or something, as it mimics a style that would have been the natural progression of retro graphics had we not skipped several leaps and bounds as we did.  The design, the look are reminiscent of 8 and 16-bit classics, but the fact basically remains that those 8 and 16-bit classics could not handle the amount of detail, the amount of colors or anything else that Hotline Miami manages.  It's a play on perceptions which I suppose is appropriate once you get into the meat of the game itself and the plot that it offers.  I do have to re-emphasize detail, however, as Hotline is absolutely ridiculous with it - on top of dozens of different corpse designs for your slain, you'll notice little things, the the bubbling of boiling water in a pot on a stove or, indeed, spent shell casings on the floor after you've fired a weapon.

To be honest, I even want to put some of the blame or praise, depending on how you see it, on just how unapologetic the game is about its violence.  Make no mistake - Hotline Miami doesn't pull a single punch.  It doesn't say "Violence is bad!" in the same timeframe that it allows you to climb onto a fallen enemy and slit his throat with a knife.  It doesn't outright paint you as a villain, nor the foes you leave in your bloody wake as villains.  It's violence with a side of violence rather than a side of morality lessons or preaching.  If anything, I think this approach is much, much more effective towards sending a non-violence message were the intent there, because it's..well, unrepentant.  I haven't finished the game yet, so I don't quite know the fate of our main character, but I could hazard a guess.  And it is not a pleasant one which is fitting because it doesn't have to be.  To enjoy Hotline Miami requires you to check your expectations at the door since, while playing it you simply won't know what to think in regards to all this and in some ways, that might just be the better idea.

The word that Chance used was "lurid", and that's about as apt a descriptor as anything ever could be.  Put simply, Hotline Miami is a game where you don an animal-themed mask, burst into a building bustling with violent people and murder them before they can kill you.  The way it accomplishes this is not for the faint of heart, though if you distract yourself from that long enough, remind yourself that it's just a game, you can find a massive amount of enjoyment and lose hours of your life in a flash because you just wanted to give this stage one more try, go for that A+ ranking or even just refine your technique.  For that, it's well-worth the hype that it has received and I'm certainly glad that it made its way to the PS3 and Vita platforms so I could give it a whirl.  The fact that it has a Platinum Trophy honestly might give me enough incentive to play it enough to achieve that feat, but I haven't quite decided just yet.  Regardless, it has definitely been an interesting game so far, and one that I want to delve into the deepest reaches of if only to see the conclusion of the story that is honestly more interesting than it has a right to be given how threadbare it can appear to be.

btw Tony the Tiger mask is best mask - punch all of the things to death

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